Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What if ..... by Kate Winslet

This is the song, by Kate Winslet, that Anan and I have been singing hoarse in the last few days. I've always loved this song and she loves it too... and today I dedicate it to the first love of my life... my Dad.

Here I stand alone, with this weight upon my heart
And it will not go away
In my head I keep on looking back, right back to the start
Wondering what it was that made you change.
Well I tried but I had to draw the line
And still this question keeps on spinning in my mind

What if I had never let you go?
Would you be the man I used to know?
If I'd stayed, if you'd tried, if we could only turn back time
But I guess, we'll never know...

Many roads to take, some to joy, some to heartache
Anyone can lose their way
And if I said that we could turn it back, right back to the start
Would you take the chance and make the change?
Do you think how it would've been sometimes?
Do you pray that I'd never left your side?

What if I had never let you go?
Would you be the man I used to know?
If I'd stayed, if you'd tried, if we could only turn back time
But I guess, we'll never know...

If only we could turn the hands of time...
If I took you back would you still be mine...
Cos I tried but I had to draw the line
And still this question keeps on spinning in my mind

What if I had never let you go?
Would you be the man I used to know?
What if I had never walked away
Cos I love you more than I can say...

If I'd stayed, if you'd tried, if we could only turn back time
But I guess, we'll never know...

We'll never know......................................................

Love you pa,
Keep smiling wherever you are.

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Majestic splendor,
A metaphor for opulence and power
Yet it arose as a symbol
Of resistance, of revolution
Of refusal to bow down

You stand upright with pride
Staring at the imposing brown stoned structure
That symbolized imperialism
You mock aloud, that she is but, just a mere gate
Into your hallowed hallway

A testimony to change
As hard as stone, but warm and mellow inside
Large heartedly welcoming guests
With hospitality that makes us proud
Then you got stabbed in your back

Your cry was heard the world over
A cry of betrayal, treachery, mind-numbing brutality
You bore the suffering without a word
Resisted the wounds and burns inflicted on you
Let yourself be raped by hallucinating ruthless vagabonds

The stains of innocent blood will be washed away
Not by the sea you stare at everyday
But the efforts of brave men and women alike
Who will stand up and retaliate, I hope and pray
And not let bygones be bygones anymore

Oh beloved Taj, like your older namesake
You are pristine in your loyalty and untouched in your innocence
Even after the massacre, you stand unshaken
As if inspiringly exhorting us mere citizens
To remember the sacrifices of our brave brothers
To remember the splattering of blood on your walls
To remember the shattering of your glass panes
The plumes of fire bellowing away from your crown
You inspire us to stand tall and unshaken
In the face of wrath, anguish and pain
To be less aggrieved and take more action
But do we have the strength to do so, ask I of us…

Saturday, November 29, 2008


This might seem redundant - to beat my chest and cry aloud for what is happening to my beloved Mumbai, my city, my home. I have always been asked what community I belong to - and people are always surprised to know that I am a Tamilian. (Apparently, I look like anything but a Tam). I am not bragging, but I have always claimed to be a Bombayite at heart and a Mumbaikar for political correctness. I identify more with the cultural bhelpuri that Mumbai is a moniker, a metaphor for, than with my Tamilian roots. Make no mistake, I am not denouncing my roots - I am very proud of it. Yet, if I were to choose, I would choose the city of my childhood, the city that gave me everything I have today - the city that shaped my dreams.

And today, my home is burning. With rage, with shock, with sentiment, with grief, with red tears that stain its structures in the false hope that the sea, betrayed by treachery, will wash them away.

I am oceans away from home, yet my grief is no less and the pain is palpable even in this cold town I live in.

My questions might seem redundant, boring, oft-repeated. But as Mumbai's child, as a stakeholder, as someone whose home was invaded, ransacked and whose home survived an attempt to reduce its structure and fabric to rubble, I demand answers to my questions - NOT BECAUSE IT'S MY CITY, BUT BECAUSE IT'S MY COUNTRY:

1) How can the home minister of the state have the sheer audacity to relegate these horrific incidents to be termed as "small" incidents that Mumbai is now used to? Does he have a heart? Does he have a brain? Does he have eyes? Does he have any sense?
He hails from a small town unaccustomed to the terror that Mumbai has seen in the last 15 years. He came with a baggage of small-town mentality that was focussed more on shutting down dance bars (as if they were terrorising the city) and forgets that as the Home Minister, it is his duty to ensure REAL EFFECTIVE EFFICACIOUS BULLET-PROOF JACKETS TO ATLEAST THE ANTI-TERRORIST SQUAD. It's a no-brainer situation to me. He sits in a plush bungalow surrounded by commandos who ought to have been protecting innocent citizens, but were forced to protect this insignificant insensitive man as a call of duty. Will someone at least slap him?

2) WILL PEOPLE PLEASE STOP BRAGGING ABOUT MUMBAI'S RESILIENCE? There is a limit to how much you can falsely hype our helplessness for resilience and use it as an escape into amnesia. Does anyone remember the lives lost in the July 2005 floods - where is the promise to clean the Mithi River? A 2001 report had pointed out the failure of intelligence activities on the Indian coastline - the primary route for terrorists in the the 1993 Blasts and the 2008 Massacre in my home. How many years and how many more lives before you sitting in that high and mighty chair will decide to do something about it? Don't politicians at least have a collective conscience that reverberates into action for national security consciousness?

3) WILL SOMEONE INVEST IN THE POLICE FORCE OF MUMBAI? PLEASE. It is no joke that the city falls prey to terrorism time and again. If it is not suffering from chilling spineless ruthlessness and cowardice of terrorism, it is held to ransom by the mindless bloodshed by the underworld, or just the gimmickry of cranky politicians greedy for print space.

4) Will the responsible politicians please step down? I DEMAND THE RESIGNATION OF VILASRAO DESHMUKH, R R PATIL & SHIVRAJ PATIL.

5) WIll AFZAL GURU PLEASE BE HANGED - ATLEAST NOW? (Yes, I absolutely support capital punishment for the devil incarnate).

I am seething with anger, I am pained with the grief, I am scared for my people. We have been taken for granted for too long. It is payback time - to give Mumbai its due and not leave it to bleed each time in the false hope that resilience will bandage its wounds and the need to survive will nurse it to normalcy. Enough is enough.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Never alone

I am never alone in this crowd
It’s never quiet, there’s always a shout aloud
Yet loner they call me, so it be
The silent noises wafting seamlessly

Lonely I walk, but am not alone
Stalking me is my past soul
It’s funny that my alter ego talks in a guy’s baritone
If he comes alive, he better be handsome and toned

They talk to me, I stare at them
Wondering if they said something now
It’s queer to ask them to repeat their lines
Once, twice, thrice; but then how many times?

It feels so weird, so many voices
When it’s just two of us debating the choices
Physically I might look like two
But now my mental twin is trapped in my body too

AAAAAA I wish I could scream
I stuff the pillow on my face screen
To stifle the cry, and deafen the noise
But their sounds penetrate them even otherwise.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008


Twas’ a dull dark morning, the sun unlit
I was walking fast when I saw it
A vision bright, blinding light
I was alone then as I was in the enlightenment
It seemed like I needed none
But without them, it wouldn’t be so much fun

My life was not incomplete without them thus far
But now for them I hold my heart’s door ajar
They’re there to hold me when I twist, sprain and fall
They laugh at me, for me, with me and that’s them my friends I call
Come share my madness, my dreams, my fears I beseech
Never do my pleas go unheard, but so also never do they preach

They’re my loved ones in a new world unknown
I lead the way, tread carefully in the know
That beside, behind and in front of me they will be
And they will always love me. :)

Friday, October 3, 2008


She stood by the door, waiting for a friend
Twiddling her thumbs, pacing end to end
Smiling to herself and then breaking into a frown
Looking into the faraway and then staring at the marble down

Seemed like she was nervous, anxiously excited
As if in the next few minutes, would be her future decided
She looked at her watch, her cell phone, the clock
Then slumped into a chair, like a ship pulling into the dock

She stood up suddenly, put her hands in her pocket
The time of reckoning had come, the time of docket
She took a sharp breath and another long and deep
Knocked at the dark brown oak door and took a peep

I wondered what news it would be, good or bad
I certainly liked her, wished it wouldn’t be sad
I was waiting for the bus, it was cold and dark outside
It was past half an hour, when the door creaked aside

They came out kissing, hands intertwined
I saw the ring and gladly resigned
I was happy for her, the glow on her face was bright
The darkness outside lessened because of her light

What is it about happiness that makes light out of dark
Doesn’t joy and enthusiasm make you want to sing like the lark
It’s so amazing how time can tell a story
One moment of tragedy and then a blaze of glory

I‘ve dived into that uncertain happiness, I’ve swam in it before
Until yesterday, when disappointment washed me ashore
Someday venture again into the unknown, I’ll dare
But for now, I’ll just build my castles in the air

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


You touched a chord in my mellowed heart
Music came alive and rejoice in the hearth
Where were you when I intended to silence my voice?
Or were you always there to dampen the other voice?

Were you my companion in boredom?
Were you the one who plastered a smile over my misery?
Were you the one who walked with me so I wouldn’t fall
Were you the one who loved and hugged my all

You seem an old acquaintance, yet I don’t remember seeing you ever
We’d probably just brush our arms in the crowd
We’d probably acknowledge each other in the elevator
Yet I wouldn’t know who you were, but this is what I have to say

I never want leave you thankless
I never want the sun to come down on your face
You bring cheer, joy and light that precious candle
The light of hope that brings with it the zeal of life

Good-bye ol’d dear stranger
Whose identity was never revealed
All I saw were the footprints in the sand
Yet I am as far from the ocean as can be

Blind Vision

I set out with a vision bright

My head held high, legs rapidly astride

Nothing escaped me, nothing failed to cheer

The green foliage, the wet earth, the cool breeze

Sending me a reminder that the universe was with me

That I was a part of them and they were a part of me

That I would survive and prosper just like

An old ancestor of theirs did.

Along the way, I saw many faces

Some gay, some tired, some anxious, some excited

Some of the faces joined in my smiles

We paced ourselves together animatedly

A journey we called friendship

But then sometimes we would have to split

So that we could meet again at another turn

And what a surprise it would be,

To meet them where the twain roads met!

I kept walking, I wanted to explore

I was curious, how could one tiny cell

Bring so much beauty to the world?

It could rule a body, a mind, a soul

And it was just a nucleus and some fluid walling it off

I didn’t mind come rain, come shine

I would keep walking alone or together

Until the end of time

I kept walking until the landscape changed

I had never looked back until I came here

And now when I did, I found myself

In a vast endless desert

Far removed from where, I could

Reach out to someone

Isolated, tired, in desolation

I trudged along with trepidation

In the hope that I would find an oasis

I was petrified of that scorpion sting

The heat of the sun was scorching

The sand was angry, hostile to me

And then all I remember is a feeling of bile and

A black vision in front of my eyes

I had set out with a vision so bright

That wouldn’t dim in the light

But I cheated myself

For I shouldn’t have dreamt

Of seeing the world

When I knew

I was blind.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sex and the City: The movie original soundtrack

I've never really been a SATC fan. Could never keep awake for the 11 p.m show on HBO when it was telecast in India. The movie released around a time that I was ready to pull out my hair in angst and boredom. Moreover, my cousin, an avid fan of SATC (a fall-out of the in-flight entertainment aboard Continental Airlines flying from Newark to Delhi) was persistent in her efforts to drag me to PVR Cinemas to watch the movie - and she won.

So there we were, on a Thursday morning at 10 a.m. for a show that was unbelievably priced at Rs. 70 (considering PVR is a fabulous cinema hall, with lush purple cushions and a cozy ambience and the tickets are never less than Rs 150). So that was paisa vasool no. 1.

The movie itself was cool - it wasn't just about sex and the city, actually it hardly spoke of either. It was more about relationships, friendships, misunderstandings and letting go / forgiveness. I really took to the last lesson - it was portrayed subtly without being preachy, without the melodramatic dialogues, without any fuss. I have my gang of girls who I love to hang out with, talk to, confide, confess. We're a closely knit group without being glued to each other. The friendship that the girls share in the movie could have been a depiction of what I share with Meera, Anita, Namrata, Poorti, Mano,  Bhu, LP, Ashlesha, Chan... I can write a whole blog dedicated to just us, but I'll save that for another day. The camaraderie that Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda share (without breathing down each other's necks) is probably the story of a million girlfriends in the world. So the storyline and script and the acting in the movie - was paisa vasool no. 2

And now finally, the subject of today's post. The Music - paisa vasool no. 3. The first song that caught my attention was a catchy foot-stomping number that had me remembering it even days after I saw the movie. I later discovered it to be Labels or Love by Fergie. (The only song by Fergie that I'd heard was Clumsy - it's a favorite for my niece). I was thrilled when I discovered it on youtube and it left me wanting more. Courtesy Ruckus (a music player that is exclusively available to college students in the US for free), I downloaded the entire soundtrack.

And I loved all the songs. Each and everyone of them. Each song has its own mood, a life of its own. There's Nina Simone, Jennifer Hudson, India Arie - yes, of course it has a more feminine touch to it. Don't expect rock or anything loud. It's pleasant to the ear and it grows on you. It really does. My personal favorites are Kissing and Labels or Love. But I really like each one of them.

I would really recommend that you listen to these songs. It's a superb ensemble - and you'll have one for every mood.

Even if you're PMSing!!! :)

Saturday, August 23, 2008


Cancerians are supposed to be hoarders - of antiques, nostalgia, memories, general clutter. They cling to the familiar, are home-bodies, love their nest. I am all of that, but then, every once in a while, we humans need something that stretches our comfort zone beyond the comfort line. It's a good thing, to want to experience something new, to learn a new art, to meet new people, to see a new place. But for me, I've never really wanted all of that. I've always been happy with where I am, where I was.

Until, one day, I realized, I needed something new - a change.

So, I decided to digress from my career path, make a bold decision (and a heavily-priced one at that) and move away from all that was familial and familiar before they translated into contempt. I took a leap, flew across the great oceans and came to a new land. New land, new people, a new me? It was all amazing at first - the freedom, the opportunity to be answerable only to myself, the different way of life. My friends around me loved it. I did it too. Atleast, I pretended to - and then I ran back home.

I couldn't take it being away from what I knew as mine. And yet, now that I was back home, I didn't like it anymore. I had taken a large bite of my enticing apple - that first gagged me, but the sweetness remained and I lusted for more.

So I decided to try it again. Start over. I came back to the new land. No wait, it wasn't new anymore this time round. I knew it. I knew the shuttle stops, the groceries, the bookstores, the cafes. I knew the people and they knew me. They recognized me even after all these months. That felt comfortable. Warm. I felt like I belonged.

So, I am happily cocooned in my comfort zone in a new place. I created it last time round and this time I'm enjoying it fully. See, I love the familiar, the old, the memories. I like to relive my life over and over again.

And yet, everything seems new. The way I see things around me, my outlook on life, my perspectives on socializing, everything is new. I have left a large part of ME back home and another significant part of my life left me.

So like Harry Potter in the last book, I have actually been able to see parts of my life leave me piece by piece or would it be peace by peace? Parts and people, I thought were indispensable - and I am just discovering the fallacy of my blind beliefs.

This time, things are the same old, but I am a new person. So new, that I am excited about discovering myself, little by little. I am going to take it slow. This time I don't need others to put challenging things in front of me, I am going to challenge myself. Small tricks here and there. I am on my own, but I do have my Hermione and Ron around.

This time, I am going to create magic. For myself. By myself.

Change is good. Every now and then, I think I am going to need it.

For now I am just fine.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Impacted Wisdom - II

It all started with a poky sensation in the right lower corner of the inside of my mouth. It came in spurts initially trying desperately to grab my attention, and when I refused, it decidedly took the upperhand and became a constant nagging pain in my neck (ear and mouth).

A sudden change of travel plans forced me to consider a visit to the dentist - something I shuddered at for the last time I went there for one complaint, I ended up with 3 painful root-canal treatments. Actually this incident was the preamble to the final showdown. Apparently there are three nerve roots for each tooth which need to be anaesthesized during a root canal treatment. But me being me, I apparently had 5 nerve roots in one tooth, which my veteran dentist could not locate. So I had to bear pains throughout the procedure while she shoved, dug, poked and pulled.

So after the initial shock of seeing me back in her clinic after many years (read - 2 years), Dr. Dentist peered into the hollowness of my mouth, did her customary hmms, shook her head and said "your wisdom teeth, all four of them, have got impacted into the bone. They're half out and don't have any place to maneuver and they're beginning to show signs of decay. (saving grace - she said my brush wouldn't reach the wisdom teeth and that's why there were beginning to decay). Let's remove them. Come tomorrow and I'll remove all four!"

Me: "all four? At the same time?" (Now, I am brave even in the face of Goliath, but removing four teeth at the same time?)

DD: "Of course. It's a small procedure. Each one will take just a couple of minutes. Plus, your school friend SA who is apprenticing with me also got hers removed last week. And she did the procedure on another patient this morning".

Me: "Oh SA, it will be so good to see her. (Then on second thoughts), But I hope you'll be doing the procedure on me".

DD: "Of course. Here take this prescription for antibiotics and gargles and I'll see you tomorrow".


SA: Gives me a bear hug. "So great to see you. blah blah blah. ... she got married.... blah blah blah.... im getting married... blah blah blah... when're u getting married?"

The nurse hands me the consent form. I take a cursory glance and then as an afterthought I look at it horrified as it warns me about severe swelling, other teeth getting dislodged, pain throughout and after the procedure, failure of the procedure and worse a temporomandibular joint (jaw joint) dislocation. Ouch! I don't why and DD wonders why I asked her, "what is the worst complication of this procedure that you've come across?". Portent intuition?

DD: "Relax, it's a routine thing"

So I slip into the large chair, swivel my feet up, gargle, laugh away nervously, and look up to see capped-masked-gowned-gloved DD and SA with syringe-needles and retractors and other scary looking things in their hands.

DD starts poking me with the needle to numb me. And my tissues swell. She takes the scalpel, I reflexly close my eyes and before I know it, she has taken a plier-like instrument and drawn out my first decadent wisdom tooth.

DD: "See. I told you so. But it's a large tooth"

Feeling better and more confident now, I let her take a sharp jab at both corners of my hard palate and lo behold, 2 more wayward teeth were out!

And then the battle began. What seemed as an innocuous tooth removal resulted in a 2 hour ordeal with naked vision, x-ray vision, imagined vision about the orientation, angulation and curvature of my 'large' wisdom tooth. Needless to say, it was disoriented compared to the normal way and so accessing the root was getting difficult. Moreover, each tooth has two roots so that they could be sectioned through the crown of the tooth and each half removed easily - but not mine! My wise tooth had decidedly fused the two roots into one and so it couldn't be extracted by divisive methods.

The drill of the bone grated my nerves, the flush of the suction tickling me but I kept my cool. And then suddenly,

DD: "H, I think I've drilled too close to the inferior alveolar neurovascular canal. I can't go further. Can you come with me to my mentor's place in Matunga. He's an expert in these cases and it would be over in a jiffy".

And in what seemed like after-a-whirlwind, an hour's drive later, my mom, DD and I were sitting Senior DD's clinic and a couple of minutes later, I was "lying on the operating table" (yes - like in the operating theater) and surrendered to the whims and expertise of SDD and DD. Another 10 mins later I was sitting in front of SDD chatting about my Johns Hopkins plans and we struck a deal that I'd pay him by being the conveyor of a gift to one of of his friends at JHH in lieu of Rs. 6000! Nice deal!

So 4 days later, I am sitting with my laptop in hand recounting my tale with a swollen face, toothache, bitten lips, cheilotic torn angles of the mouth hoping fervently that this be an end to my toothy saga - for life.


Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Unwise wisdom

Too much of anything is bad. I guess that's what happens when one is too wise for one's own good. Wisdom gets concentrated, sedimented and nearly fossilized into the maxillary and mandibular bones (the upper and lower jaws for the layman) and then begins the great war!

I am sure with our evolutionary history, as homo erectus and homo sapiens, we needed 32 teeth to bite into flesh and leaves. But if you trace our monkeyed-heritage, you'll notice a distinct change in the size and the shape of our homo sapiens sapiens faces. Our faces have become daintier, foreheads have flattened, shapely eyes, sharper noses, less-pouting lips, smaller ears and finally a smaller jaw.

So when all our facial features have shown developmental regression, isn't it a natural progression that nature would start to modify our teeth accordingly? My theory is that 32 human teeth are actually inhuman - considering that the four wisdom teeth hidden away in the recesses of the mouth have for all purposes become vestigial. I mean we don't use them to chew or bite and our brushes don't even reach that far into the cave. They don't even contribute to aesthetics and cosmetics and finally more than half the world needs to get them out.

And in propounding this hypothesis, I am ably supported by my exhausted dentist who is minting money while pulleying and pulling out stubborn wisdom teeth and gracefully admits that "God made man and wisdom teeth, man improvised and made dentists and dentists make merry with wisdom teeth".

My teeth and I have been enigmatic nemeses. We reside in the same body, eat together, chew on thoughts, spruce up each other, even go to bed together. But, where I grew up readily and steadily and entered adolescence and adulthood with relative ease, my teeth were a bit redundant. So when my friends and peers would show up cheerfully with missing-teeth-smiles, I would rush to the bathroom and try to pull and push and shake and coerce my teeth to grow up and get uprooted.

Stubborn as they were, they would shake from their slumber, but refuse to get out of bed. So each time one of my milk teeth showed signs of falling, I'd get excited and wonder what to wish from the tooth fairy. So you can just imagine my annoyance at the regular visits to the dentist to get each and every obstinate milk tooth pulled out. Each and every time! Ice creams galore but no tooth fairy! My mom began to rue the fact that I was a milk-magnet as a baby. Anyway, that was a long time ago or so it seemed. For the second part of my epic struggle with my teeth was yet to begin.


Saturday, July 5, 2008

Genetic Habits

Clumsiness and absent-mindedness, as I have earlier mentioned, are traits I have inherited from the maternal side of my family. I have 3 cousins and a grandparent and maybe an aunt who have preceded me as the yellow peas in this Mendelian family tree.

I also have this habit of rubbing my fingers against each other (much like Abhishek Bachhan in Sarkar) and an even older habit of rubbing my nose when I am in deep contemplation. The nose habit - is more like trying to remove the grease from my oily skin.... My friend Amol was the first to notice this peculiar habit and make me aware of it. Since then, whenever he catches me doing that, I know the sidey nickname of 'doggy' will not be far behind.

Curiously, I discovered that this habit is also hereditary and comes my maternal side again. This time from my grandma's family. She was here with us during the hot summer months to escape the cruel sweltering heat of Madras (Chennai I know is politically correct - but correctness be damned!).

So it one of those lazy May afternoons spent studying and figuring out how metabolic acidosis drives hyperkalemia as if I were trying to unearth one of the great mysteries of the world. Like I said, my fingers were subconsciously drawn to my nose (maybe I smelt a clue). I don't know for how long it was, but when I looked up, my patti was staring at me, wide-eyed with her hand on her cheek and head tilted in admiration.

Turns out that I reminded her of her brother (whom we affectionately call BM) and her father, my great-grandfather. Apparently, her father would sit in the same way when he was neck deep in work and in deep concentration. Tears welled in her eyes as I brought back memories of her beloved dad, leaving me a lil awkward.

Life works mysteriously. We think that death takes away our loved ones and all their reminders away. But that's not true. A part of our dead lives on with us and lives on with our children and theirs too. Mendel's laws are unshakeable. They work - All the time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Back to the Grind

I took a nice vacation away from my fat books. I just realized that I haven't had a real vacation in 9 years! Even the holidays between the after-final-year-exams and before-start-of-internship were ruined by incessant worry over whether I would manage to scrape through the Surgery exam.

I've been enjoying this holiday for nearly 4 months now - free of worry and illness. I had planned to take the Step 2 CK of the USMLE this July-August, but I think my body simply revolted against this idea. Now I am actually beginning to admit to myself that maybe, maybe my body and mind craved for this break. I always compare my life in the last 9 years to an F1 racing car that was running at top speed beyond the control of any gear or speed break - it was destined to crash against a wall the moment I slumped. And so it did.

In the beginning, it was sheer torture. I thought I was being penalized for some unknown reason. The only holiday I was used to was the weekend Sunday (not even Saturday) and that was fruitfully spent in sleeping. But how much could I sleep? My cousin kept teasing me about how I had forgotten how to enjoy a holiday. And I think she was right. Somewhere down the line, I was in such a hurry, that I had forgotten to enjoy life. I had forgotten how to enjoy life poetically - to stop in my track and enjoy the beauty around me!

So, I am glad I took this break. I am feeling so rejuvenated now. The fact that I am able to come with something to write almost everyday is evidence of my rest and relaxation. Fresh, renewed vigor, re-energized, that's me now.

I know I am ready to face my own world again. A world that is punctuated with tests and exams at every opportunity. But that's the way I like it - I am so used to it now, I find it difficult to sit in a place without having a hundred to-d0 tasks running in the back of my mind. I am all set now. To re-enter the world I left a few months ago. To get back to the grind.

But what will be different this time - I will recognize when I need to take a break and chill out. And more importantly, I will actually take the time to do just that - do nothing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Birthday bumps

It's nearly the same everytime - atleast has been for the last twenty years.

So this is how it goes - I try my best to stay away till the midnight bell strikes and brings in the 1st of July. I really try and sometimes have been successful at staying awake to receive the first of the calls at 11:45 pm Jun 30th so that this friend can continue talking to me for the next 16 minutes, promptly wish me at 12 am and then hang up rather abruptly at 12:01!

The morning of the b'day, my parents enter my room singing the b'day song just as the colors of the dawn pass through the curtains into my room. I wake up from my slumber later to find a gigantic b'day card - with love from Mom and Dad, the Great.

Usually, I am besieged by phone calls from 8 am to 10 pm on my b'day - makes me incredibly popular. Mom usually makes my favorite sweet - Pal Paayasam for me and the menu is more or less centered around what I like. Even if I have already made lunch plans with friends.

There is of course the new dress! Or dresses.

On reaching school / college, I'll be hugged and patted. Smiles everywhere. A huge one plastered on my face. Feels good to be born and live here, I tell myself. B'day cards and flowers come my way. There is the cake and then the gifts. s).(I am a real pain when it comes to buying gifts for me - cos I am horrible when it comes to accepting gift

Acquaintances sending me good wishes. Threats of the birthday bumps. Friends demanding that I loosen my purse. Some daredevils snatching away my wallet and treating themselves with the money in it!

Back home, dad will be waiting for me to return so I can cut the cake he secretly went out to get.
It's almost always a Black Forest from Monginis with the biscuit base. There would be the standard family dinner and I'll be back home, a happy girl!

As a kid, this would actually be different. I would share chocolates with all my classmates - after they sang aloud wishing me a Happy Budday - and then escape from the boredom of classes under the garb of sharing sweets with all the other teachers. Interestingly there was a lot of politics involved here. I was allowed to take another girl to accompany me in the adventure and you can just imagine how nearly everyone in class queued up to be my 'friend' for that day. In the end, loyalty won hands down and I'd take my best friend with me and we'd disappear for the next two classes.

In the evening, after my afternoon nap, I'd wake up to find my home decorated with balloons and other confetti and a large cake. I especially remember my seventh birthday with a cake baked to resemble a swimming pool - i still remember the aquamarine icing. It's quite amusing how most of the kids who would attend my b'day parties (complete with cake, wafers, samosa, sauce, chocolates, juice and return gifts) have all grown up and gone their own ways! I was of course the centre of attention and attraction - and my, did I love it?

It was different this year. Very different. The first sliver of silver in my life. A silver jubilee of birthdays...

Happy B'day Haru!

Yay! Another birthday. Another day of celebrating my existence. Another day of re-iteration of how many friends surround me. Another day of my family closing-in around me with warm hugs and kisses.

This year was slightly different. I couldn't stay awake till 12 - but my sis woke my up anyway. Mom and dad let me sleep for as long as I wanted to. I cooked - dahiwale aloo and theplas. There was no college. Only very few of my friends are here in the same city and even they're busy working hard. So there were the phone calls, but I missed the reverie! No flowers this year, but there were e-cards and a lovely chocolate cake sent by my close friends Namrata and Anita in connivance. (They're still arguing as to whose idea it was originally). I bought my dress on my b'day - okay, admittedly I bought a couple of them. And we closed the day with the traditional family dinner.

I miss the cacophony of being with friends on my b'day. But at 25, I guess, we're no longer kids anymore. Everyone's gone their separate ways. And b'days are going to be low-key from now on.
I am 25. I have most likely completed a quarter of my life. Wow! I wish I could believe it...

Happy Birthday to Me.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Why I think I set out to become a doctor.

What is it about the study of medicine (and for the puritans - surgery too) that keeps drawing me to it? I keep asking myself this question and dwell upon it for hours. Yes I have that much time in hand right now to spend pondering over THE question of my 25-year old life. (or rather 24 yrs and 365 day old life - it's a leap year this time ;) )

While I nurtured the childish dream of being a doctor and 'saving lives' through my school and high school years, I never had second thoughts about pursuing any other profession. (Yeah, the advertising bit was a flirtatious idea). It was never parental pressure contrary to what my sister and brother-in-law believe. Not even subtle or subconscious. My dad wanted me to dream of going to one of the IITs and mom was okay with me doing anything as long as I did it well.

So what was it that pushed me in this direction? I was very good in Mathematics and Humanities too. I wasn't actually doing well in Biology - wrong strokes in my pictorial depiction of the human anatomy earned me just about enough marks to satisfy my expectations. But that didn't deter my interest and fascination with the anatomy and the physiology of the human body.

I remember carrying this image of all the doctors we visited - the doctor sitting on the other side of the table and listening to the ill patient. Listening. Nodding. Listening. Asking leading questions. Listening. Smiling encouragingly. Pacifying the patient. Assuaging the patient's doubts. Listening. Touching the patient. Soothing the patient. Listening.

It's oft mentioned how half the illness is cured by just sitting in front of our physician in his room. I think I was drawn to this seemingly magical power that the demigod doctor seemed to possess. The power to bring a smile to a patient writhing in suffering. The power to assure another that his / her ills have a cure. The power of bringing hope to the patient. The power of listening and the change that it could bring about.

It might sound super-sentimental and crappy. But I truly think that's what led me to this profession. It wasn't about curing and taking credit for it. It wasn't about cutting and removing the tumor. It wasn't about changing a diagnosis and prognosis. It was just about being able to bring hope and a smile.

So why am I confused about my decision? I got disillusioned with the workplace and the environment I was a part of. There was a lot of passing the buck, a lot of insincerity around. I think, somewhere I became lax in my guard and got lazy too. I began to pass up the opportunity to be able to be proactive in a patient's treatment so that I could get those few extra minutes of sleep.

I succumbed to the hypocritic oath when I was supposed to remember the Hippocratic Oath.

I am not being harsh on myself. I am being honest with myself. And I can rest in peace only when I admit the truth to myself that I didn't turn out the doctor I meant to be.

What I will do from now on and how will I do it, what specialty I will take up, I don't know. But what I know is I am not going to let the fear of harming a patient by a procedure (when I can actually save him / her by being brave and using my hands and eyes) overcome me. I am not going to be lazy with an illness even if it has only a 1% chance of mortality. For, like Conrad Fischer put it so well - 1% mortality doesn't matter as long as you are not the person dying.

Tomorrow is Doctor's Day. And my 25th Birthday. I hope it spells a new beginning for the next 25, 50 or even 75 years of my life. I am hoping to start being the doctor I set out to be.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sibling stories

I am reading 'My Sister's Keeper' by Jodi Picoult and this is the second book I'm reading that has been authored by her; I finished reading the first one last week.

From what I've seen, there is a recurrent theme underlying her writing that juxtaposes legal and medical ramifications of the issue at hand. So we get to see a lot of courtroom and hospital drama, lot of lawyers' banter and doctor-patient interactions.

My Sister's Keeper is about the protagonist taking her parents to court for misusing her body to keep their elder daughter alive. The older sibling suffers from Acute Promyelocytic Leukemia and requires frequent blood transfusion and bone marrow transplants to help her tide over acute calamitous illnesses and keep imminent death at bay. The protagonist daughter was apparently procreated by artificial insemination methods - that combined her parents' chromosomes to achieve the best genetic combination that would serve her sister well - so that the younger one could be an allogeneic donor.

I remember reading about a real family like this in the Readers' Digest years ago. The sisters shared a sixteen year age difference and if I remember well, the title of that article went something like "they live because of each other". The siblings in the real story seemed happy and content; the older sister went into remission and then achieved permanent recovery at the end of the article, unlike the story I am reading now.

I share an eight year difference with my sister and sometimes I've even asked my mother if I was a conception arising from a second thought - to give my sister the sibling she craved for. Of course, my sister played mischief with me throughout my childhood convincing me that I was an adopted kid - an infant lying in a garbage bin who aroused her compassion enough to convince our parents that I should be brought home and into the family! I've long outgrown this conviction, but I think somewhere it touched me so much that I have become a firm believer in adoption.

Apparently, it's commonplace among siblings - the elder one torturing the younger one with spooky adoption stories. I'll be comforted by the thought that I wasn't the only one to have been bluffed.

So coming back to the book, I am really enthu to read about what happens of the plot, the courtroom drama that ensues and the final judgment.

Her last book, 'Plain Truth' gave me a detailed narrative of the life of the Amish tribe. I'm looking forward to learning something new from Jodi Picoult again.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Aap ki Kashish - Carnaticized

I have a song I associate with every person I am close to. Usually it has been playing in the background during memorable time we've shared - either loudly or just in my mind or my memory.

I never imagined that I would be inspired by Himmesh Reshammiya.... never! But I think my close friend Meera and I were in an outrageously humorous mood on that day. We were laughing all day and all the way from college to the station.

And that's when we struck on the idea - and broke into peals of laughter again at the very suggestion. We must have really looked like fools or some manic patients escaped from Ward 19 of KEM Hospital.

For we were showing off our training in Carnatic music. Verbally, vocally. We realized that Himmesh had basically aped our Carnatic musical legacy while crroooooooonnnnnninnnng Aap ki Kashish.

Think about it, hum it... actually sing along with us -

A-aa-p / k-i-ii / ka-a-shi-sh

Sa-ar-fa-ro-oo-sh / ha-i

A-aa-p / ka-aa / na-sha-aa-aa

Yu-un / ma-ad-dh-ho-sh / ha-i-i

Ky-a-a / ka-he-in / tum-m-se / ja-aa-aa-ne-ja-aa-aa

Gu-m / hu-a / ho-o-o-o-sh / ha-i-i

Ho-o-o-o-sh / ha-i-i-i-i-i

Gu-m / hu-a / ho-o-o-o-sh / ha-i-i

My second crush

I was 8 yrs old when I first saw him. He didn't notice me, not even a glance thrown my way. He would've been 29 then. Married? I don't know. Frankly my dear, I didn't give a damn either.

He rocked - literally and figuratively speaking. His wiry callused fingers moved effortlessly over those sharp wires as if they were cerebrally equipped by themselves. His hair blowing away as a mane (he really had long hair then) by his edgy jumpy movement bamboozled me - was I really enthralled by this wild guy? His rebelliousness in his unkempt self - the hair, the singular silver ear ring, the ganji-like tees, the torn jeans, the crazy belts with the large head attracted the self-righteous girl I was.

But it was his ability to hold an entire crowd mesmerised in that din that he and his friends created on stage that caught my attention. He was livewire. He really was. Especially when he crooned

"I wanna lay you down in a bed of roses
All night I'll sleep on a bed of nails
I wanna be, just as close as, the Holy Ghost is
To lay you down..... on a bed of roses"

Jon Bon Jovi. Lead singer of Bon Jovi, good-looker, rock star, crooner, heart-stealer... my second crush.

I think I would have even entertained the idea of dating him, had circumstances been more favorable. (atleast us being in the same residential vicinity, to say the least). I think what I find most attractive about him is his hair - wonderfully smooth and silky (I imagine) and blonde - brown depending on when he dyed it. Added perk - he's a devoted, dedicated family man. Looks, good voice, stability, what more could a girl want? (I am considering he's smart cos he got so far and I am sure he has a good sense of humor).

He was my introduction to Western music, rock, etc. He was my guide to the world my sister lived in (or by her account, tried her best to revolt against Tambram rules and regulations to live). He was the route I could take to be as cool as my older teenage sister was.

But that doesn't take away from the fact that despite all these credentials, Bon Jovi happen to be one of my favorite rock bands of all time. I guess, they are in general considered very good too. Not for me the noise of Def Leppard or Iron Maiden (the latter I try when I'm in an exceptionally low mood). But Bon Jovi were more musical - I would call most of their songs rock-love-ballads. So their music seems just right on a rainy day when Im in bed with a book in hand and enjoying the wetness of the weather. Always. :)

So, often when I am in a nostalgic mood or missing my sister and the good ol' times we shared as kids, I play Bed of Roses and sing aloud. And make a silent prayer as if asking JBJ to teleport me back to that world when and where beds were indeed made of roses.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Something in Nothing

There is a meaning even in nothingness

If we would stop by and examine its test

While it seems like a vacuum out there

Sometimes nothing is our answer best

Nothingness is a space that can be filled

It is a challenge to our creativity and imagination

For all we know this world might be virtual

But we know it needs purification

But if the earth needs to be purified

The very essence of life needs to be rectified

Cos with man came misery

And in his shadows, other lives were crushed

Nothingness is not an empty space now

That there is a word that describes it

Is tangible evidence that it is something finite

And there is no better word to fit

Can anything be nothing?

Can everything be nothing?

Yes it can because as someone once said

We love giving words and defining

We are not money-making machines

We are meaning-making machines

Cos even money without a meaning would be useless

But the definition makes it coveted nonetheless

So why are we discussing nothingness

When it is nothing but an empty space

We do it to stop and remember

That we can paint colors of life on the plain canvas called nothingness.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

As daft as they can get...

I couldn't stop laughing at Charlie Black's heroics-gone-wrong. A John McCain aide, he certainly thought he would say something to boost the Republican Presidential candidate's claim to the top post in the world (higher than the UN Secretary General or the English Throne)...

This is what he said, "a terror attack on the US again would prove a 'big advantage'" to McCain's campaign.

Haha.... and I was actually disappointed that the era of Bush-isms had ended.

Btw, Black happens to be McCain's top adviser! :D

My favorite advertisements

There was a time when I secretly desired to enter the field of creative marketing and advertising. I thought I had it in me to become a copyrighter and churn out witty dialogues.... Well I just channeled this energy during the spoof-scripting sessions while at college and they were really funny.

So while I sometimes wonder what would have been had I majored in Literature and gone to MICA or probably even gone to FTII and learnt script writing, maybe life would've been different! It would surely have been a lot of fun! Yeah yeah, I know behind the fun is a lot of hard work - but I would have loved it.

I don't know if I have the courage to switch careers now, I love my current profession equally. My only grouse is that it leaves me drained at the end of the day - emotionally more than physically. But the challenge is to be able to wake up next morning and be ready to be surrounded yet again by blood, urine, shit and vomit! :)

So anyway, I was just lamenting at the lack of good advertisements in the recent past... Youngistan didn't go down well with me. Akshay Kumar's Thums Up ads have become passe. Have these advertising honchos lost their gift - why have they reduced their creative gimmicks to a tit-for-tat in the Pepsi v/s Coca-cola v/s Thums Up war? Where's yaaron da tashan? Yeh dil maange more.

I can never forget the horror of Vivek Oberoi going 'wakao' or the utterly distasteful 'toyenge' ad for some brand of men's briefs that's currently on air. Give me Lalitaji anyday!

I think among my favorite ads would be in no particular order:

The Ericsson mobile phone ad : The "One Black Coffee Please"

Dhara oil : "Jalebi"

Cadbury's: "The girlfriend dancing and prancing away to glory on the cricket field after her love makes a century"

Titan: Almost all their ads... in fact the last one with Aamir Khan and Meera Vasudevan was damn cute.

Pepsi: The one with Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai and Mahima...err Ritu Chowdhury

All the Johnsons' baby oils... or just about any advt to do with babies (my maternal instincts spring alive!)

The Airtel ad: The B/W ad with confessions, expressions.... etc ..... "Express Yourself". We hijacked this theme for the introduction of our convocation skit. :)


This Camlin marker ad that I've only seen on Youtube: About the rudaalis not being able to take a widow's sindoor off bcos it was marked with a Camlin marker.... and so her husband suddenly gets a fresh breath of life! Hilarious.

And the Maggi Hot & Sweet Chilly Sauce, it's different ads!

These are all I think of now. I am sure there are others that captured my imagination but for some reason are not on the top of my mind now.

In one of my earlier posts, I said that the late nineties were not a good time for Western music. But I think Indian Advertising flourished during this period. Of course we were witnessing the 'free market invasion' in our otherwise socialist territory... But it was a good period. Some of the best creative minds came together and created 20 second livewire art.

I am looking forward to another brilliant advertisement ... I hope it comes soon.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Happy B'day Aryika

She'd have turned 26 today and would have been a very contented girl doing her much-desired residency in Internal Medicine at Jaslok Hospital today, probably running around filling forms, following-up on the reports of various investigations, writing down orders, consulting her seniors, appeasing the relatives of her patients, trying to strike a rapport with the nurses (I doubt it would have taken her this long though), answering calls given by residents from other faculties and finally if she were lucky, taking a moment to breathe and then maybe eat.

If she were lucky, she would have grown to be one of the most loved doctors the hospital would've ever seen. Eveready to take on extra work, relieve a tired fellow doctor, fill-in for someone who wanted an off, she was everybody's friend. Everyone loved her. Even those who barely knew her for a couple of days.

Hard-working to the core - she stayed on for a year to study rigorously so that she could make it to an Int. Med. residency. Her fellow interns could never stop praising her or sometimes ridiculing her or even scolding her for being so stupidly sincere. For a junior like I, she would take time off from her schedule just to sit with me on a rough day and let me know that things weren't as bad as they seemed. That I knew my stuff, I would be a good doctor just as she would be, if she were lucky.

Even after these days, I still remember the postcardish sight of the three girls - Aryika, Prerna and Gene sitting outside the basketball court sipping coffee and laughing uncontrollably. I felt most uncomfortable thinking of Prerna crying uncontrollably outside the ICU of Breach Candy Hospital in the last week of February. Aryika was sinking in her battle against the deadly tuberculosis that had caused meningitis and her brain to swell with fluid. She underwent a shunt surgery that tried to remove the excess fluid but went into a coma. She stayed in the coma for over 2 weeks and never returned.

My brave friend, my lovable friend and guide, Dr. Aryika Malaviya - here's my salute to your kind spirit, your illuminating smile and your jovial nature. Our sick have lost in your passing away, a doctor who would have healed them not only with her medicines but with her compassion and genuine concern.

On your birthday, I miss being able to call you and wish you. For as long as I remember, it always rained on your day. Today, the sky is clear, the earth is parched.

I only hope that you are happy wherever you are, cheering the angels. Happy Birthday!


Sunday, June 22, 2008

Remembering Boyzone and Backstreet Boys

My sister just uploaded her blog with a nice piece on her adolescent idol, object of her affection and the music sensation of the eighties - George Michael. I was around 5-6 yrs when I remember discovering the poster of this rugged, stubble-cheeked wiry guy with cool sunglasses and a leather jacket standing with a knee flexed against a wall and driving my sister and her bunch of equally 'crush'ed girlfriends crazy. I still remember the poster on our wall - it was a still photograph from his "Faith" video.

My sister is super-super-excited about having gotten tickets to GM's last ever concert that is going to be held in London. So, I know for sure she's going to be holed up in the Queen's country until after August 24th. She's got three tickets - just incase they don't manage to find a kindred soul to baby-sit my lil niece - in which case, my adorable niece will get to see GM live!

Reading her article, I sat back trying to recollect who my teenage music idols were. I'll always cringe in regret that we belonged to the late nineties - a time for the pubescent boybands and girl-bands. Spice Girls took the world by a storm and to this day, one of my friends is so crazy about them that he waited 3 nights in a row in front of the Mumbai airport to catch a glimpse of them when they'd come to India - he ended up with an autographed picture with 'Baby Spice'.

And then there was this gang of girls singing "C'est la vie" and frankly that's the only byte of French I know. Britney's with her eyebrow-raising "Hit me baby" was a sensation of course. But the late nineties belonged to two boybands - Boyzone and Backstreet Boys.

Boyzone was this Irish band with cute looking guys (especially the leads Ronan Keating and Stephen Gately, the latter who later did a GMish coming out of the closet gig). They had a decent collection but mostly love balladish. Love me for a Reason was probably the one that brought them fame. A Different beat and Isn't it a Wonder, if I remember correctly, were more in the vein of 'save the world' pleas. My personal favorites were Baby, Can I hold you tonite - I really liked the video with each guy and his girl on either side of a glass pane and All That I Need.

Any piece on Boyzone would be incomplete without a mention of their biggest hit, the love ballad "Words". Haha. Infact back in our all-girls school, a couple of girls were thrilled to receive love letter that had typed out the words of the song. Aah, if only falling in love and staying in love were that easy :)

Ronan of course went onto give another hit in "When you say nothing at all" that was part of the OST for the Julia Roberts- Hugh Grant romantic comedy Notting Hill. But most of all, much to our chagrin, it remains my friend Amol's favorite song - and he dedicates it to every other girl he falls in love with!

But the Backstreet Boys were the showstealers! AJ, Howie, Nick, Brian and Kevin were fought for keenly by the girls in my class and we had our fiercely loyal groups for AJ, Nick and Brian. I strongly believe now that the video for Backstreet's Back was responsible for the sudden interest in the band. The ghosts and vampires were attractive and the final group dance was impressive! And I think, BB had a better range of songs than Boyzone. The beats were catchy, the lyrics easy on the tongue and the music... was well-above-decent compared to the fare that was otherwise doled out to us. There was this one song that went like "... you're the one for me, you are my ecstasy" - this one was my BFF's ultimate favorite and she'd get up suddenly in the break between classed and gyrate to the song on the secretly kept walkman in her locker. The last I saw of BB was "I want it that way" and that was the end of our relationship.

I was never really a fan of either boybands and I think this disappointment in Western music kept me away from it for a long time until I rediscovered it a couple of years ago. I will single handedly credit those nerve-grating annoying songs ' Barbie Girl' and "we're going to Ibiza" for ruining my association. Moreover, MTV and Channel [V] were increasingly turning to desi stuff and that was really disappointing.

I wiki-ed these boybands after I finished writing the above and it seems like they're pretty much dead and buried by all. I don't think I miss them one bit and I can doubtlessly claim that I will never be enthused to go for any of their comeback concerts.

Give me Pink Floyd anyday and I'll be Comfortably Numb to the rest.

Saturday, June 21, 2008


Is there any way to use a different template other than the ones offered by this blogspot? My sister is really keen on having hers changed and neither of us has a clue of how to go about it.

Abinav - since I know you visit this blog regularly and since you have some neat templates yourself, you can presume that this query is directed to you. :P

Circus coming to town.

So are we or are we not going to push for the N-deal? Either way, looks like Mahesh Rangarajan, Dorab Sopariwala and Yogendra Yadav will soon be hitting our screens with their political analysis while we sit as the audience and watch candidates trapezeeing from one party to the party.

Let the jamboree begin!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Confessions of two clumsy feet / knees - Part II

I think my mother really lost her patience with me when my clumsiness actually landed me in an orthopedic facility. The story goes this way - inspired by a particularly foot stomping episode of Nach Baliye the previous night, I decided to try a few steps with my two left feet in the privacy of a wet bathroom. In my excitement, I forgot that it was the day of my last viva- Obstetrics and Gynecology in my preliminary examination in the Final Year.

The first few steps felt really good and injected a vigor for more. But in 2 minutes I found myself somersaulting and crash landing on the marble feet. If I'd cracked my skull, I think I might have been spared the ire mom had saved up for later. I yelped in pain and somehow managed to get dressed. I could neither flex my knee nor extend it once flexed. I had already swallowed a couple of painkillers to douse the excruciating agony and travelled to college by car. And then started the drama!

I could barely walk. I was obviously creating a spectacle even that early in the morning but was stupidly proud to admit that I needed help. Somehow, Anita took charge and insisted that I walk with her support. (Someday, when you head a big organization, I'll brag about your how I saw your leadership skills early on!) Bhubu, as sweetly as ever, accompanied me to the ob-gy ward and with their help I managed to climb up to the first floor ward.

News indeed spreads like wildfire - especially when Bhubu happens to be in the know of it. Quite frankly, I had begun genuinely sympathizing with the poor patients who face the brunt of a group of enthusiastic medical students eager to ask them incessant questions, touch and poke them in places they honestly wouldn't want to display. Everyone demanded to see my knee - which by now looked obviously swollen even through the thick denim material. (which I politely refused as I was horrified about my unwaxed legs).

Given my luck that day, I had been assigned the case of a woman who was at the end of the ward diagonally opposite to the where I was sitting. So I trudged along the hypotenuse of the room, maneuvering myself around beds and handled adeptly by Ravi and Sumedh (who along with Anita were gladly my knights in shining labcoats for that day). I had become quite the center of attention in the ward - of nurses, doctors, students and pregnant women alike.

I wondered how I would make it to the tables where they had kept the surgical instruments for one our vivas. And the whole ward started laughing when the registrar walked across the room, armed with the Deaver's retractor and a dilator, and came to my bed. I couldn't really believe that sometimes when the horse couldn't come to the water, the water could come to the horse in a pot. :)

Soon enough, the orthopedic registrar on-call came to attend to me; by now, my knee had swollen enormously and the registrar said that I would absolutely need an X-Ray. Drawing curtains around my patient's bed, the budding orthopedician did a cursory palpation on me and suggested effusion, more likely hemarthroses (blood in my knee cavity).

Once done with the exam, (after failed attempts of sitting on a wheelchair) I found myself hauled onto a white trolley (used to transfer patients from the operating theaters to the ward) and with four young doctors pushing my trolley, I was definitely laughing stock - with the real hospital patients and the crowd of relatives excitedly pointing to a doctor on the trolley! Anita was excitedly screaming "baaju hato, hato" and the hilarity of the situation didn't escape any of us.

Finally Ravi and Sumedh literally lifted me from the trolley and carried me into my car (no mean feat :P). The story ends with the smiling orthopedician aspirating 100cc of blood (he anticipated around 50cc) and the MRI showing fracture of the infero-medial part of my patella, retinacular tear, medial collateral ligament sprain and a miniscule part of my medial meniscus chipped off. I landed on the operating table for an arthroscopic surgery to remove the floating patellar chip - one that Namrata got to see while I was knocked out by the effect of anaesthesia. Apparently, the inside of my knee is a beautiful ivory white, Namrata vouches :)

3 yrs now, after intense physiotherapy, I can walk fine and climb stairs with minimal difficulty. Running still remains a goal to be achieved. But the clumsy tripping still continues - undauntedly.

Confessions of two clumsy feet - Part I

I didn't really have a subject to write about today. So I thought of writing about me. The first thing that came to my mind was my clumsiness. And so be it.

I seem to have an uncanny knack of attracting clumsy situations. Everyday, when I walk on the road, be it an uneven tar road or the smoothest of asphalt cemented concrete roads, I end up tripping atleast once. For as long as I have been walking, there hasn't been a day without a tripping event. Cobblestoned-like paths in Mumbai have only made my life more difficult - they're often not laid properly and come off easily; I don't really need a reason to fall, do I?

While I was in SIES, my junior college in Sion, my large group of friends and I were walking towards the station when suddenly a cow came running to me. For all my vanity about not showing my fear, I just stood there for a minute trying to be brave and then yelled aloud and ran for dear life - later, I was told, I was standing on the grass that the cow was waiting hungrily for. Few years later, on a hike to the Rajgad fort as we were returning to base, my gang of girls broke away from most of the class and were walking by ourselves. We came to a really narrow path flanked by trees that didn't allow us much space to walk together and so we divided ourselves into two. My friends were walking ahead of me when we came to this slope while I was distracted by my attention to the fauna of the forest.

My shoe laces had come undone (as usual) and as I bent down to tie them, I was suddenly faced with the prospect of a charging bull bellowing his challenge to flatten me in less than a minute. My ears can never forget the rage in the bull's mooing (?) and my heart still thumps aloud everytime I think of it. I honestly thought that I was going to face a similar fate as one of those unlucky matadors who got themselves killed in that ghastly activity that they call sport! I closed my eyes and began praying aloud and it definitely wasn't raw courage when I screamed 'Help' in all the languages I knew. Lord Shiva definitely heard my now-desperate prayers and came to my rescue in the form of an old lady and calmed his Nandi incarnate. The old lady (I'll never forget her face) could barely stifle a chuckle and broke into rural Marathi dialect claiming how we city-bred were incapable of sterner stuff.

I think I've definitely had enough of cows and bulls for the rest of my life.

I've fallen down all the staircases I've used regularly - in my building, at school, at SIES (it was an everyday story, with Apu actually waiting for me to trip), at Agrawals, at GS even at Johns Hopkins. Everywhere. Infact, the Agrawals kissa was actually really funny. For the uninitiated Agrawal Classes are 'world-famous' coaching classes in Mumbai as the flower attracting the SSC high-scoring bees for excellent tutoring for the HSC examinations. While I didn't particularly enjoy the stifling and suffocating claustrophobia of the air-conditioned room with crowded benches for 8 hrs everyday, being with friends for that long is one of my favorite memories. So I belonged to the afternoon batch and we had a break at around 5 pm for about half hour. Aarti, Jinal and I decided to hit Damodars (a snack outlet) below the the classes and soon we were caught up in some entertaining exchange of anecdotes; so much so that we didn't realize when the rest of the crowd had made its way back into the classes. A glance at our watch and we realized we were late and so we ran to enter the classes before the lecturer did.

Now the building that houses Agrawals was really old and the wooden staircases are narrow and steep. Moreover at the end of the first flight of the stairs would sit Ramu, the watchman, peon, clerk, handyman, man-friday for the staff. Ramu was actually a cute moustached, bespectacled old chap with a toothy grin that he flashed sheepishly everytime he caught some coming in without their ID cards. That he would report these trivial mistakes of memory to the higher authority irked many and was responsible for the downfall of his popularity. (Though, according to me, he was and hopefully still is cute). So as on any other day, Ramu was standing up there (grinning widely with his 32 teeth shining brightly hoping to catch his latest prey) and the three of us were running up the stairs. I took the lead and leapt from one stair to the one-above-the-next. Bad idea. For when I reached the last few stairs, my clumsiness got the better of me, and I tripped and with my arms raised above my shoulders circumscribing a 90 degree arc from an erect posture to a flat one. In the next second, I heard Aarti and Jinal squealing with uncontrollable laughter and looked up to find an absolutely stunned Ramu staring at me in disbelief.

As I grappled with my situation, I realized that I was lying before him in prostration (the way Tambram men do) as if seeking his blessings. Never before and never after, I suspect, did anyone actually fall at his feet and elevate him to demi-god status. Since that day for the rest of the year, an embarrassed Ramu avoided me completely - and I was spared of an ID check for the rest of the year.

In my defence / defense, it's definitely a family trait - a dear cousin and a dear grandpa also are known to be klutzy souls. My cousin and I have been known to roam around the city wearing our salwars inside out, I have also risked infamy by doing it with my kurtas and tops. We're obviously blind too. As a warning to my future friends and a thank you note to all my friends this far, I am also scatterbrained and leave my bags and purses absentmindedly to the mercies of my friends. (Thus far, I have been lucky that one of my dear ones has always managed to notice my missing belongings and return them to me). I don't mean to brag about it, no I'm hardly proud of being so foolishly absent-minded. Believe me, I have tried and will keep trying to be more careful of my belongings and my whole self too.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Love in a Torn Land

I just finished reading a book today - Love in a Torn Land - by Jean Sassoon, an American author who spent twelve years in the Middle-East and chronicles the lives of women there. The first book of hers that I had read was Princess - a biographical account of a woman belonging to the Saudi Arabian royalty, Princess Sultana. The book described the oppressed, suppressed and repressed lives led by the women in the Muslim oil-rig amidst an environment of chauvinism, sexism and plain favoritism towards the male child. It spoke of young girls wedded away to men old enough to be their grandfather, of women who who bore their husbands many children only to find themselves cast way for a younger concubine, of fathers who married girls who were once their daughters' best friends, of brothers' friends who terrorize others with their apparent moral policing authority and then go about raping 11 year old girls just for the thrill of it!

Love in a Torn Land was the story of Joanna and her Kurd (a native tribe in the northern mountainous part of Iraq) family and their travails of being a Kurd in a country ruled by a Kurd-hating-megalomaniac (in)famous to the rest of the world as Saddam Hussein. Born to deaf-mute Arab father and an exceedingly beautiful Kurd mother and living in Baghdad, Joanna was always fond of Kurdistan and longed to be one with her Kurd relatives. She describes how Kurds were looked at with disdain by the rest of Iraq and were even fighting for survival against Saddam's desire to wipe them out completely from the face of the earth. A fiesty girl, unlike her timid sister Muna, she often voiced her desire to fight for Kurdistan freedom. When she was fifteen, she fell madly in love with Sarbast, a Kurd revolutionary and a cousin of her sister Alia's husband Hady. Infact the warm relationship that she shares with Hady is really charming. The book talks about the humiliation that her brother Ra'ad and Hady that to go through during their unwarranted (pun intended) arrest - their only crime being that they were born Kurds.

The story then goes on to Iran's attack on Iraq in the late eighties that led to daily bombing at Baghdad. The Kurds sided with Iran in their fight against Iraq (much like Bose trying to garner German for the Indian freedom cause). It was around this time that Sarbast also fell in love with Joanna and through letters sent her a proposal for marriage. The centrepage of the book consists of photographs of Joanna's family and Sarbast. The rest of the story is about how Joanna joins Sarbast in Kurdistan where they lead a difficult life of a revolutionary (peshmerga), in difficult climates and difficult terrain. The crux of the book is the chemical attack (chemicals released from bombs and canisters by enemy planes)all over Kurdistan (a plan masterminded by the devious Chemical Ali, Saddam's cousin) that leaves Joanna temporarily blinded and her devout Aunt Aisha murdered. Times are dangerous for Kurds and treacherous too - with many Kurds turning informers for the Iraqi Arabs (jahsh). But Joanna shows extreme courage and valour in supporting Sarbast (who drafts propaganda for the Kurdish freedom movement) and his belief and finds herself contributing to the cause in her own way.

But things worsen and the couple have to leave their hut (a transition from the comfortable and relatively luxurious life she led at Baghdad) and are on the run to save their lives. Enroute to Iran, they face continuous bombardments, terror of being caught by jahshs, a miscarriage of their unborn fetus and rocky, unfavorable mountainous climb on the Kandil mountains. But Joanna describes how her love for Sarbast and his affection for her enable her and strengthen her to pull through this trial. Finally, with the help of an old Kurd revolutionary and sitting on his mule, Joanna reached Iran with the love of her life Sarbast and his jovial cousin Kamaran.

In Iran, Joanna delivers their son Kosha (meaning struggle) in a hospital that is hostile to Iraqi refugees - the nurse-midwife tells Joanna rudely that Iran cannot afford anaesthesia for Iraqi refugees and proceeds to suture her torn vagina without local anaesthetics. (Having been a witness to a similar situation in our very own Mumbai, I shuddered to think of the pain that poor Joanna must have endured stoically).

In the epilogue, Sassoon writes about how most Iraqi Kurds including Joanna's family have left the country and are scattered all over Europe. Joanna, Sarbast and Kosha themselves seeked and received political asylum in England.

I was telling one of my friends how I like to read books with geo-socio-political themes. It is not about reading the atrocities that women face in these Muslim nations - gender discrimination, female infanticide, honour killings and dowry deaths are still very much a part of our comparatively progressive Indian society even today. It opens my eyes to different realities across the world. I doubt I would visit any of the Middle-eastern countries for a long stay and these books give me a peek into the lives of the women there.

Here I must say, while The Princess painted a very negative picture of men in Saudi Arabia, Love in a Torn Land does exactly the opposite. It describes men who are extremely sensitive to their women, love their women with all their heart and most of all give respect to their women and treat them with equality (well almost). The book pictorially depicted an Iraq where women were allowed to frolic in frocks and skirts and colorful scarves - only later when they grew up, did the religious and conservative Sa'ad insist on his sisters donning the hijab. Women were allowed to educate themselves, even seek a professional degree in engineering and work alongside men.

Those were the seventies and eighties. Today in 2008, the Times of India carried a small article of a Pakistani Canadian father killing his daughter for not adhering to the conservative dress code. The early 2000s had the Taliban relegating women to the status of an object. (The Kite Runner gave an insightful account of life in Taliban times). Kashmiri girls today are faced with threats for not covering themselves in a burqa. Tamil actress Khushboo has her effigies burnt when she sensibly advices girls to indulge in pre-marital sex only with protection - who is society kidding when it denies that its girls and boys do not succumb to their lust? Hindus hate Muslims who hate Hindus and Sikhs who hate Christians - we say we're secular, but tell me, how many parents would agree to their Hindu daughter marrying a Muslim.

Was society intolerant earlier or are we getting intolerant now? Only time will tell.